I’m back home from my Transformational Leadership Council meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the week-long event, and the various meetings with remarkable men – and women – one particular connection stood out: a dinner my husband and I had with Larry Dossey, during which we’d had a fascinating chat about the power of premonitions.
Larry Dossey is a doctor and former chief of staff of a Dallas, Texas hospital, who gave up his practice to write heretical books on the role of the mind, prayer and the sacred in health care.
Cluster of premonitions
Dr. Dossey’s fascination with all aspects of what he has called ‘non-local’ mind started during his first year of medical practice. One night he had a dream about Justin, a four-year-old son of one of his medical colleagues, on a sterile exam room, going berserk, strenuously resisting a white-coated technician, who was attempting to place some medical apparatus on his head.
Dossey woke up feeling shaken, “as if this were the most vivid dream I’d ever experienced — profound, numinous, ‘realer than real’.”
Later that day, he bumped into Justin’s mother, holding the boy, whose face was wet with tears. As she’d relayed it, they’d just come out of the electroencephalography (EEG) lab, where the technician, ordinarily so skilled in running an EEG tracing, had been completely foiled by the screaming boy. The sequence of events with Justin had followed those that had occurred in Dossey’s dream to the letter.
Dossey experienced a week of similar precognitive dreams, all of which came true. He was too frightened to speak about them, because acknowledging their existence would negate everything he’d learned about how the universe is put together.
One giant ‘now’
Premonitions completely turn our understanding of the world on its head. One of the most inviolate notions in our sense of ourselves and our world is our idea of time as a one-way, forward-moving progression. This assumption is reinforced every moment of our ordinary lives. Indeed, the most tangible evidence of time’s arrow is the physical evidence of our own aging; first we are born, then we grow old and die.
Our ability to receive information from the future suggests that at a more fundamental level of existence, there is no space or time, no obvious cause and effect. Newtonian ideas of an absolute time and space or even Einstein’s view of a relative space-time are replaced by a truer picture –that the universe exists in some vast ‘here’ where here represents all points of space and time at a single instant.
If subatomic particles can interact across all space and time, then so might the larger matter they compose. In the quantum world of The Field, a subatomic world of pure potential, life exists as one enormous present.
In seeing into the future, it may be that we are helping to shape this realm of pure potential and bring it into being, just as we do with a quantum entity in the present with the act of observation.
Catalogue of near misses
In his latest book, The Power of Premonitions, Dossey has catalogued an enormous number of cases where premonitions have saved the day. A mother is prompted by her dream to remove her baby from its crib an hour before a chandelier crashes down on it, smashing it to pieces. A dozen people are no-shows for choir practice for the first time the evening that their church explodes. After vivid dreams of planes crashing into buildings, a mother cancels the family trip to Disney World scheduled to depart on September 11, 2001. The list goes on and on.
Ian Stevenson, late professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, most famous for his past-life research, collected some 19 reports of people from five countries who’d had a vivid premonition of the Titanic disaster, including the financier John Pierpont Morgan, who canceled his ticket at the last minute. The Rhine foundation has similarly collected hundreds of stories of premonitions of 9/11.
Over the years, I’ve also been collecting premonition stories. The richest seam comes from the link between mother and child. As a boy of five, David, for instance, had had a tooth pulled, and the dentist was finding it difficult to stem the blood. Eventually, he succeeded, and David’s parents thought it was safe that evening to go to the cinema and leave him with the babysitter.
During the film, his mother suddenly saw a vision of David’s face covered in blood — a sight that filled the cinema screen. She rushed home to discover David asleep in bed, his face covered in blood, just as she imagined it. He was lying on his back, and the blood had started to run up his nose. In a few moments, he would have been asphyxiated.
Early warning system
What is most interesting about all these stories is exactly why premonitions occur.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, premonitions concern a warning of some kind. The Society for Psychical Research discovered that 60 per cent of their 290 cases they collected over the years had to do with deaths or accidents.
British biologist Rupert Sheldrake believes that there are strong evolutionary reasons for animals and humans to have an intuitive internal warning system. Natural selection would have favored the ability to sense impending dangers.
We may feel a premonition in the limbic system, the primitive emotional center of our brain. It’s the place where we get a bad feeling about something, or instinctively understand we’re confronted with something we ought to avoid.
Although premonitions have been called ‘second sight’, James C. Carpenter of the Rhine Research Center proposes to call it ‘first sight’ not only because we all possess this ability, but also because it transcends all our senses.
Furthermore, these flashes from the future are often the most important sights of all.
However, these early warning cues are only useful if we know how to cultivate them and heed what they are trying to convey.
Those who make the best use of forecasting know how to prepare the ground — through dreams, special brain states, and practices in their daily lives — for this kind of information to come to them regularly.
But do the warnings do any good?
In the majority of cases, it appears that they do. In some 150 reports of precognition collected by the Rhine Center, in two-thirds of cases, the parties who’d received the premonitions were able to change the course of events and prevent calamity.
The universe gave a nod and a wink to this discussion on our trip home from Albuquerque. We had been scheduled to fly United from Albuquerque to Chicago, where we’d pick up a Virgin flight to London. When we got to the Albuquerque airport, we discovered that our United flight was so delayed that we would likely miss the Virgin flight in Chicago.
The marvelously dedicated man behind the desk at United spent close to an hour, painstakingly ensuring that we would be switched to a later United flight in Chicago so that we’d be sure to make the connection.
During the second leg of our trip home, I uncharacteristically became obsessed with our baggage-claim tickets, to the point where I kept pestering my husband Bryan: Where are they? Are they safe?
As it happened, the flight attendants in our overnight plane to London left all of us to sleep until the very last minute. In the general scramble to ready ourselves and get out the door, Bryan left the baggage-claim tickets in his book on his seat.
After discovering this while on line through passport control, I smiled. I often get many early warning hits like this. “I just hope we’re not going to need them,” I thought, but when our baggage didn’t arrive, I wasn’t particularly surprised.
It turned out we didn’t need the tickets. Through its computer tracking system, United located the bags, which had gone to Virgin, despite our change of flight, and they arrived the following day. I had to chuckle over the events because they offered me another reminder of the power of premonitions.
I had been hearing that small voice within me loud and clear. Pay attention to me, it seemed to be saying. At some point you’re really going to need to.
For those of you who would like to train your brain to invite in premonitions more frequently, join me on our Sunday, August 1, 2010 teleseminar: http://tieteleseminars.com